COP26 may have underwhelmed, but as 2021 draws to a close it’s worth noting that the energy transition mood-music from two of the world’s economic powerhouses – Germany and the US – is immeasurably more positive than at this time last year.
In December 2020, the ‘Energiewende’ was languishing in the fading months of Angela Merkel’s long Chancellorship, while Donald “wind turbines cause cancer” Trump was still in the White House and fighting a rearguard legal action against the election of Joe Biden.
This week Recharge reported how the ambitious green expansion plans of the government of Merkel’s successor, Olaf Scholz – sworn in on Wednesday – are set to turbocharge Germany’s wind industry, according to research that claimed more jobs will be created by the sector in the nation’s industrial heartlands than will be lost in the exit from coal.
Scholz’s coalition government, with a team with strong green credentials at the top of energy policy, has put German renewables in its strongest position for years, and the upbeat mood was echoed by local heavyweight RWE, which declared a ‘tailwind for Germany’ as it unveiled a multi-billion-euro domestic expansion plan covering renewables and hydrogen.
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Biden’s energy transition policy ambitions have seen some ups and downs in 2021, but how far the US has travelled from the Trump era was underlined this week when the President issued an executive order requiring the federal government to run entirely on carbon-free power by the end of the decade.
The US is on the cusp of a remarkable era of renewable energy growth, on land and sea, as confirmed by latest forecasts by the International Energy Agency, which foresees a 65% capacity growth by 2025.
It is becoming clearer by the week that the fast-emerging floating sector will change offshore wind in many more ways than the obvious lack of a giant steel structure fixing the turbine to the seabed.
The specific demands of the infrastructure needed to deploy floating foundations are a challenge, but also a massive opportunity for green circularity, as BW Ideol’s Bruno Geschier explained to Recharge as he hailed the “having cake and eating it” benefits of the floating pioneer’s plans at the Scottish former oil & gas base of Ardersier.
Floating’s unique technical challenges were the focus of another exclusive Recharge interview as veteran US engineer Larry Viterna explained how technology developed by his company Nautica Windpower will help the sector overcome the unique obstacles presented by America’s infrastructure – not least its ubiquitous bridges.
Certainly not business as usual for an offshore wind sector that is already gearing up for massive deployment, and a shift to floating was highlighted as one of the potential risk factors facing ship owners making massive investments in vessels to serve the fixed-foundation market in a guest analysis from Recharge’s shipping-focused sister-title TradeWinds.
The week also brought progress for another floating wind concept, a 12MW design from transitioning offshore oil & gas contractor Technip Energies, which was anointed by classification body DNV as on track to receive key ‘approval in principle’ certification this year.
Let’s end the week with a trio of reminders that technological innovation is the lifeblood of the energy transition.
Recharge reported this week how auto giant VW will tap a process powered by geothermal energy to source ‘zero-emissions’ lithium from volcanic regions of its German home market, lessening its battery supply chain’s dependency on imports.
From lithium to hydrogen, as wind OEM Siemens Gamesa began work with a specialist supplier on the plastic piping systems needed to export H2, rather than power, from a new breed of turbines producing the gas in the North Sea and elsewhere.
And finally, from the sea to the air with a concept aircraft claimed to offer the chance to fly from London to San Francisco on a single tank of liquid hydrogen – though you’ll have to wait until the mid-2030s to buy a ticket.